Contemplating Jesus


Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

Van Linge (c.1629)

It was early on the first day of the week, and still dark John tells us in his gospel, when Mary Magdalene visited the tomb and found it empty. After informing Peter and the other disciples, they came to see for themselves, but returned to their homes.  Weeping, Magdalene stayed behind by herself.  And in her solitary grief, the resurrected Jesus appeared first to her.  She mistook him for the gardener until he called her by name.

This scene is latent with meaning.    Firstly, Jesus knew that he could trust the immediate acceptance of the truth of his resurrection by Mary Magdalene’s unwavering faith.  Secondly, her love for him was pure, without reserve, without hesitation, without distraction or obscurity.  She was his alone: and alone he met her, a gentle gardener, who, after the death of his winter, was now surveying the land in his spring.

One of the greatest Christian mystics, Teresa of Avila, wrote in her autobiography, “The beginner must think of himself as of one setting out to make a garden in which the Lord is to take His delight.”  Just as we read that Jesus had purified Mary Magdalene of seven demons (ref.Luke 8:2)  so Teresa tells us that “His Majesty uproots the weeds and will set good plants in their stead.”   The virtues of a soul Avila describes as flowers, but she explains that much practice in prayerful surrender is required through the process of procuring the water of grace to pour upon these flowers.  She likens this water to tears, “For tears achieve everything: one kind of water attracts another.”   As Magdalene’s tears were shed by the empty tomb, she met the source of all life, the fountain of everlasting grace itself. 

St. Teresa furthers the garden analogy by explaining the process of purifying and strengthening growth. “It used to give me great delight to think of my soul as a garden and of the Lord as walking in it.  I would beg Him to increase the fragrance of the little buds of virtue which seemed to be beginning to appear, and to keep them alive so that they might bloom to His glory – for I wanted nothing for myself –and I would ask Him to prune away any of them He wished to, for I knew that the plants would be all the better if He did.”  She also requests that Jesus root out the smaller plants in her garden “if they are useless.”

The vital elements for sustainable life were all present in Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.  He was lifted up into the air to die on a tree, rooted in the earth to support his frame, sweat poured from his body, water poured from his pierced side, he descended into the bowels of the earth and rose again, to be a light more powerful than the blazing sun. As “the resurrection and the life” he walked first in a garden, as God did among God’s creation in Eden.   He had planted the new covenant: it had been accomplished, and, fed with faith and love, was ready to flourish.

Quotes from The Life of Teresa of Jesus pages 127,182, 153.

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